Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an incapacitating psychiatric disorder that affects 7-10% of the U.S. population and imposes an economic burden exceeding $42 billion. It develops in 1 in 5 people that experience or witness a traumatic event, such as warfare, natural disasters, and sexual abuse. Symptoms include avoiding stimuli associated with the traumatic event, constant re-experiencing of the event, and increased arousal, exhibited by exaggerated startle response. Under normal circumstances, these symptoms are adaptive for coping with the trauma. For instance, avoiding stimuli associated with the traumatic event lessens the probability of encountering the threat or others like it. However, patients with PTSD lose normal daily functioning because these responses become dysfunctional and exaggerated.

The only diagnostic tools available for PTSD are symptom checklists, which rely on self-report and self-assessment. Current PTSD treatments are behavioral therapies (e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy) and marginally effective drugs (e.g., antidepressants/ anxiolytics) that focus on symptom suppression but do not eliminate their cause. Therefore, it is a serious problem that requires immediate attention in order to improve the lives of millions.